Patrick - Will he go or will he stay?

Last updated : 28 May 2002 By Brian Dawes
In the past we've seen many lesser players make more appearances for Arsenal than Patrick and been thankful for their loyalty. We're talking here about a Frenchman born in Senegal who joined us from Italy and yet there are those who think he should stay forever because he owes Arsenal
something in the way of loyalty. Their argument runs along the lines that without Arsene's assistance he'd be just another player. I don't think that's necessarily so, but a case could certainly be argued that Patrick might not have attained such great heights as quickly or indeed at all without Mr Wenger's assistance. Whether that is true or not is of no consequence because the one certainty is that it has been Patrick's own ability, dedication and hard work that have made him into the world class player he is today. Albeit that Arsene Wenger, and probably The Premiership, have been major factors in that considerable achievement.

For those who talk of players owing Arsenal loyalty I would ask you to consider the following. Arsenal, you may recall, are the Club who wouldn't pay Liam Brady what he was so obviously worth at a time when he was quite obviously the only world class player we had. It was the very same Club that so abruptly ditched Rocky Rocastle and also eased out another all time favourite in Paul Merson. Does that make Arsenal a disloyal Club? The three mentioned were merely examples of players who most of us rated very highly and cared about, there have of course been hundreds more players who would have liked stayed but have been, to use the more subtle parlance, let go. First and foremost football Clubs and players form part of an ever changing business which alters season by season, month by month and week by week. It's a high risk, fast turnover, dog eat dog world. Clubs are out to top each other at any cost. The eleven players who start the season as the manager's preferred choice rarely, if ever, end the season as that same manger's first eleven. That is of course assuming that the manger is still there to make the choice. Teams need change to progress no matter how good they are and no top club would seriously consider not trying to improve their squad each season if the finances permit.

I would argue that no player owes loyalty to any Club any more than a Club owes loyalty to any player. It's just part and parcel of the modern game. It's always been a simple economic fact that the bigger the club the bigger the pulling power. The richer the club the better the chances of attracting the top players. No club is immune from this irrefutable law of simple economics. The closer you get to the top of the tree the more obvious this becomes. Paris St. Germain rate us a big club because we so easily stole a prize asset of theirs called Anelka. Whereas we rate Barca a major pulling power because they can pluck away top players like Overmars, but they themselves can still be shafted by the likes of Real Madrid as was the case with Figo. Thankfully, although it sometimes happens, the most expensive players do not necessarily return the greatest dividends on the pitch. To prove that I site our most expensive player; Sylvain Wiltord. Good though he may be, there are plenty in our squad who cost less but offer a better return on the field of play. Nor would he be likely to command the highest fee if we were sell the entire squad tomorrow.

For a long time football has had more to do with economics and success than loyalty, it's just more obvious these days. Just because we, as fans, are loyal it does not follow that clubs or players behave in the same way. Yet we continue to see a number of alleged Arsenal fans castigating a world class player because of unsubstantiated shit stirring press reports. OK so probably Real Madrid do want him, it's hardly a surprise is it? No doubt Juventus, Bayern, Barcelona, Valencia, Milan, Manchester United and about 100 other clubs also want him, they'd all be mad not too wouldn't they? Patrick would also be mad if he didn't sound out his true worth. Having done so he then has a choice. He can choose to stay and continue to enjoy living and playing in a country that has seen him rise to become a world class player. If he stays he can also continue to live in one of the most exciting cities in the world where he feels pretty much at home and is in easy reach for International call-ups. If he chooses to go elsewhere he can earn even more ridiculous sums of money than he's already stashing away and see if the grass really is any greener. I'm not sure about the grass but I reckon the sun might shine more often.

So far I've been lucky enough to have seen him play live over twenty times this season and do not subscribe to the view that he is playing totally below par. Great players do not play to the very best of their ability for 90 minutes in every match they play. No player ever has and no player ever will. I've seen quite a few world class players: Bobby Charlton, George Best, Jimmy Greaves, Gordon Banks, Dennis Law and Bobby Moore, to name just a few, but not one of them played at their peak every week. Owen and Beckham are not exactly setting the world on fire this season either, are they? When world class players have an average game they are still good enough to scare their opponents to death. Just as Patrick does now. We expect too much of great players because we've seen them at their brilliant best and expect them to play up to that level all the time. This was made clear to me on the Monday following our match at West Ham. I thought Patrick had had a moderate match, I thought this because I've seen him play much better. Yet three West Ham fans, all of whom I consider to 'know their football', told me that Vieira was different class. To them an average performance by Vieira was awesome, something to admire and enjoy.

We've never had many of the greatest players in the world playing for our club until very recently so we're new to the game of dealing with international press stories rather than the local rags. I believe that Patrick is going nowhere, certainly not this season and probably not even next season. Maybe that's because it's what I want to believe but either way I know a world class player when I see one and I'm making the most of it while PV4 wears our shirt. Anything else would be dumb. Of course many have argued that he's not played flat out this season but I just feel he's tried to alter his game in order to remain on the pitch instead of picking up as many yellows and red cards as previously. If and when he goes I'll still appreciate him as a great player, I'll also wish him well just so long as his doesn't play for another Premiership team. But I want him to stay and for that to happen maybe Arsene just have to persuade him that he's already playing for the biggest Club in the world. It's just that the world does not know it yet.